Berks firefighters pay tribute to 2 fallen York comrades

Firefighters died after wall collapse Thursday

UPPER TULPEHOCKEN TWP., Pa. - An emotional scene played out Friday along a miles-long stretch of Interstate 78.

A procession of emergency vehicles escorted the bodies of two fallen York firefighters from their autopsies at Lehigh Valley Hospital near Allentown back to the city they served.

Several Bernville and Strausstown firefighters stood in solemn tribute to their comrades on a bridge over I-78 in Upper Tulpehocken Township.

"It doesn't matter the distance [or] where they're from," said Chief Eric Troutman Jr., Bernville Community Fire Company. "It's just a way of us paying our last respects."

Ivan Flanscha, 50, and Zachary Anthony, 29, died Thursday after a section of four-story building that once housed a piano factory collapsed.

As respects were paid on a bridge in northern Berks, a flag flew at half-staff outside a fire station in Reading, and a deputy chief with decades under his helmet recalled his own close call.

"I think that had an impact on as I went forward in my career," said First Deputy Chief Gary Mogel, Reading Fire Department.

Mogel was less than five years on the job when he narrowly escaped with his life from a fire at the YMCA at Reed and Washington streets in 1985.

"The first floor did flash, killing three residents, a fireman and seriously burning two firefighters, beyond the firefighter that got killed, unfortunately," Mogel recalled.

That was the last time a firefighter in Reading died in the line of duty. With the recent tragedy in York, Mogel and the department pause and reflect.

"It makes any department take a step back," said Mogel. "You always try to set up outside, initially outside of a collapse zone or what could become a collapse zone."

As for the fire in York, Assistant Chief Greg Altland and firefighter Erik Swanson were last reported to be in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries they suffered in the collapse, according to York Mayor Michael Helfrich.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Flanscha and Anthony's families.

York officials said part of the wall fell on the firefighters as they were looking for hot spots and the cause of a fire that broke out Wednesday.

The Weaver Organ and Piano factory was being converted into residential units.

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